Tropicana mob exhibit consultant: ‘Nobody has an attraction like this’

Tom Zaller, new manager of the Mob Attraction Las Vegas at the Tropicana, inside the museum on Thursday, March 1, 2012.

Tom Zaller of the Mob Attraction

Tom Zaller, new manager of the Mob Attraction Las Vegas at the Tropicana, inside the museum on Thursday, March 1, 2012. Launch slideshow »

Las Vegas Mob Experience: Pamela Anderson, Holly Madison

Holly Madison at the Las Vegas Mob Experience VIP grand opening at the Tropicana on March 29, 2011. Launch slideshow »

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The Las Vegas Mob Experience VIP grand opening at the Tropicana on March 29, 2011. Launch slideshow »

Las Vegas Mob Experience Preview Day

James Caan at Las Vegas Mob Experience at the Tropicana on March 28, 2011. Launch slideshow »

After buying the old Las Vegas Mob Experience out of bankruptcy for $2.1 million, investor John Vipulis turned to exhibition industry expert Tom Zaller for some consulting help in turning it around.

Renamed Mob Attraction Las Vegas, the destination at the Tropicana resort reopened its interactive component and unveiled a few other changes last week. The interactive element had been idle since its audio-visual equipment was repossessed last fall.

Zaller, CEO of Imagine Exhibitions Inc., is a veteran producer and creator in the entertainment and exhibition industry. He’s best known for working with the "Titanic" and "Bodies" exhibitions that have been displayed in Las Vegas and around the world as well as his leadership in creating The ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands resort in Singapore.

We talked to Zaller about the changes at Mob Attraction Las Vegas and how it would stack up against the newly opened Mob Museum in downtown Las Vegas.

What was your take on the Mob Attraction when you first saw it last year?

Exhibitions are a form of entertainment, using authentic objects to tell a story.

I saw they spent some money here. This is an impressive place. It’s fun for families, for grandparents and grandkids coming together and telling stories.

You have the fun and interactivity and the celebrity component. You also have the objects supporting it to give it the authenticity and that human connection to these people (historic mob figures) that makes it real.

Is this a good location for the Mob Attraction, and how does the location compare to the Mob Museum’s downtown location?

It’s a fantastic location in the Tropicana. We’re on one of the busiest corners in Las Vegas.

Mob Museum Opens

Members of the San Diego Police Museum Association participate in the grand opening of the Mob Museum in Las Vegas on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2012. Launch slideshow »

We’re on the Las Vegas Strip — we’re within a 10-minute walk of 15,000 or 20,000 or 30,000 hotel rooms, whatever it is.

A lot of people who come to Las Vegas, they think this is downtown Las Vegas. They’re telling people on the phone back home, "I'm at the MGM or the Tropicana right downtown."

Does the Attraction compete with the Mob Museum?

We are two different animals. We complement one another. That is the National Museum of Organized Crime & Law Enforcement. It has a different agenda. It’s a much broader story — we’re focused on Las Vegas and the mob’s association with Las Vegas.

I went to see it. I say congratulations to them. They did it right. It is an object-based exhibition, not an attraction.

The Mob Attraction went through a lot of financial turmoil and bankruptcy. What changes have been executed and are planned now that it’s on solid financial ground?

When I first came here I thought this is really fun, but the museum portion was dead. So all we did in the museum is we turned some music on and we put a bar in. So now you can get a drink, be it water, juice or liquor. You can take a little break when the last thing you want to do is read (exhibition descriptions).

If this works, we have more plans to give this kind of a speakeasy kind of a feel.

We also realized we need an event space, and now we’re booking private parties and events.

What about the marketing?

The marketing had been a mess.

Some of the old ads didn’t mean anything. Some were sort of dark, bloody and with bullet holes.

Now we show people smiling and interacting with the characters. We’ve redone the entire campaign.

Are there plans to develop a traveling version of the attraction?

Nobody (in the United States) has an attraction like this. It’s a big commitment. It’s a big spend. You have a lot of staff and salaries. You have to market it.

We have a great relationship with the Tropicana. We don’t plan to go anywhere in Las Vegas, but there are great opportunities elsewhere.

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  1. We went to the attraction within the first month of it being open last year. I thought there was too much New York and "Back East", as well as too much prewar coverage. I can get that anywhere.

    IMO, the focus of any Las Vegas attraction should be-Las Vegas! The glory years for Las Vegas and the mob are 1946 to 1985. There are more than enough artifacts and multi-sensory options available that would deal exclusively with that era and provide an authentic, exciting and vibrant experience second to none.

  2. What a stupid name, Mob Attraction. No imagination.